Last Monday evening, I com­menced this fatuous weekly project in earnest, dis­claiming that “I seem inca­pable of writing inten­sive, care­fully-rea­soned long­form essays these days.”

What to do?

Instead of remaining in an arrested state of non­writing, I decided to “lift my long silence, com­pro­mise my most sacro­sanct self-imposed stan­dards, and offer a simple, shallow, inco­herent, and ram­bling bullet-list of my con­trarian mus­ings and mind-mum­blings each Monday evening.”

This evening, I intro­duce No. II, the serial-title below will be a recur­ring top­ical catchall sort of sub-series, this week admit­tedly still dom­i­nated by angsty polit­ical tripe.

I cre­ated this sub-series, because I have sev­eral other stand­alone for­mats in my mind cavity that I would like to intro­duce spo­rad­i­cally. Enjoy. Or don’t.

N.B., I got tired of illus­trating this piece halfway through, so… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Politics, Religion, Sex, Drugs, Rock ’n’ Roll, Bullshit, Stuff, Claptrap, Eyewash, and Things the First*

* I Apparently Like to Touch the Third Rail, Stupid Masochist

POLITICS: Last week, I ded­i­cated my Monday evening mus­ings to a variety of BEEFS I had with the Demo­c­ratic National Con­ven­tion in medias res. My thoughts now that the DNC and the demo­c­ratic nom­i­na­tion have wrapped up are fewer, but no less crit­ical.  Everyone is cel­e­brating the suc­cessful panache of the DNC — in con­trast with the dump­ster fire that was the Repub­lican National Con­ven­tion — on the left and in the left­ward main­stream media, save for the usual token sus­pects. I intend not to let the com­pla­cency of reported vic­tory spoil my vision.  The DNC was an exquis­itely orches­trated clus­terf — k, which was inci­den­tally a very upliftin’ and razzle-daz­zlin’ clus­terf — k, but a cluster — k no less.

Despite its osten­sible demo­graphic diver­sity, the DNC was as ide­o­log­i­cally pro­crustean as any like gath­ering of Repub­li­cans. This was less evi­dent from the broad­casts than it was from media elites and their mock­ing­bird party loy­alist sub­scribers on Face­book and Twitter.

“What we are hearing tonight is sub­stance and not sound­bites,” one gen­tleman quipped. Hmm… In truth, I think, we are hearing little more than rhetor­i­cally sophis­ti­cated sound­bites, skill­fully deliv­ered but no less insub­stan­tial.  We are seeing the mas­querade of sub­stance in an effort to induce con­for­mity of mes­sage and sup­press internal dis­sent, harsh though that may sound, so as to present a united front against the sur­pris­ingly per­sis­tent pop­u­larity of T_​_​_​_ and unpop­u­larity of Clinton.  Well, some people insist that the per­sis­tence is “sur­prising.” These tech­niques of the speech­writers, tac­ti­cians, strate­gists, how­ever, are not quite the same thing as actual sub­stance, self-soothing though it may be to believe as much.

The mes­saging at the DNC was tight and the delivery was mas­terful. The Demo­c­ratic Party might very well have a monopoly on ora­tors of a cal­iber little seen these days. At the same time, polit­ical ora­tory, how­ever well-deliv­ered, is gen­er­ally vapid. Off the top of your head (be honest), what is the most mem­o­rable line that Barack Obama, well-regarded for his ora­tory, has deliv­ered? A second? A third?  Michelle Obama’s opening speech was var­i­ously described as “pow­erful,” “stir­ring,” “win­ning,” “iconic,” and “mem­o­rable.” The com­men­tariat nearly lost its mind over the “vital” line that “will go down in his­tory,”

I wake up every day in a house that was built by slaves.

Everyone seems to have for­gotten the appar­ently less mem­o­rable line that was cir­cu­lating social media a few weeks before the con­ven­tion, the very same line that Ms Obama self-pla­gia­rized in her DNC speech, deliv­ered to grad­u­ating stu­dents at City Col­lege of New York.  That does not lessen its impact and truth­ful­ness, but we need to reäd­just our par­tisan blinders. Politi­cians and their sur­ro­gates deliver sound­bites and schtick, even the one’s we most love.

But what was the mes­saging at the DNC? It was a gush­ingly patri­otic pæan to Amer­ican excep­tion­alism. Obama has iron­i­cally weaponized the “shining city on a hill,” remolded in cen­trist lan­guage, against T_​_​_​_​and his ilk.  This is not a sub­stan­tial thing, this is a tac­tical thing. America need not be made “great again.” How­ever, America is nei­ther presently “great” nor has it ever been “great.” At least, if by “great” we con­tinue to imply a great­ness so far and beyond excep­tional that it is morally imper­a­tive that we dom­i­nate and arbi­trate world affairs. At least, if by “great” we mean erasing the lived real­i­ties of that 80 per cent of the country who has seen their for­tunes worsen not improve over the last sev­eral decades.

The star-span­gled jin­goism of the party of Reagan has been coöpted by the Demo­c­ratic Party and instead of staring queerly, quizzi­cally, and ques­tion­ingly at the per­for­mance before us, we applaud. How can we see with sequins in our eyes? Or not be diverted by Bill Clinton’s child­like wonder at real­izing bal­loons are made of magic?  Less than six months ago, 1990s DLC third-way neolib­er­alism was declared dying or dead under the stark, grass­roots crit­i­cism of the new left — the bur­geoning revival of Labor Move­ment, New Deal, Great Society, Poor People’s Cam­paign, Rainbow Coali­tion Democ­rats in Bernie Sanders and his diverse, youthful move­ment of mod­erate left­ists. Every­thing old is new again. Sur­prise, sur­prise.  Now, how­ever, neoliberalism’s false prophets rather than retrenching are becoming increas­ingly entrenched. The DNC was a self-con­grat­u­la­tory dis­play of élite rot obliv­ious to the socioë­co­nomic pop­ulism — spec­trum-wide — sweeping the western world.  It was an essay in tone-deaf­ness.

The facts seem to sug­gest, to the con­trary, that our false center will not hold. If there is any­thing that we can learn from Cameron’s cen­trist defeat in out­come of the #Brexit ref­er­endum is that this is a polit­ical season of sur­prises. A year ago, no one believed T_​_​_​_​would make it past the Iowa Caucus, no one imag­ined that he was any­thing but a flash in the pan.  How­ever, rather than coun­teract the Western rise of far-right dem­a­gogic move­ments with center-left pop­ulist move­ments rooted in sol­i­darity rather than scape­goating, Democ­rats have simply decided that the same-ol’ same-ol’ (but more of it!) gives us a fine tac­tical advan­tage.  Democ­rats may very well win the White House in November, by what margin is uncer­tain. That should con­cern everyone who osten­sibly believes that the Republic must endure despite par­tisan pol­i­ticking. If they do not win, which there is no reason for us believe they will by default, it will because of a gar­gan­tuan failure to read the writing on the wall and respond accord­ingly.

Demo­c­ratic deca­dents with their cock­tail-party cocoon of con­de­scen­sion and com­pla­cency nathe­less pro­ceeded apace, choosing to mock and ridicule pro­tes­tors airing legit­i­mate griev­ances for the sake of a quasi- party unity that was never at risk.  The DNC could have toned down the party loy­alism and focus their efforts on appealing to the 42 per cent of eli­gible voters so dis­en­chanted with bipar­tisan cor­rup­tion from spe­cial inter­ests that they self-iden­tify as inde­pen­dents, irre­spec­tive of their affil­i­a­tion.  Instead, they slammed the door that Sanders opened to inde­pen­dents, dou­bled-down on neolib­eral eco­nomics, and offered insipid affir­ma­tions of pro­gres­sive social policy com­mit­ments while cloaking them­selves in elitist trap­pings.

9 in 10 Sanders voters will sup­port Clinton in November, according to reli­able polling from the Pew Research Center. For some per­spec­tive, let’s remind our­selves that only 6 in 10 Clinton sup­porters in 2008 — the soi disant PUMAs, Party Unity My Ass — said they would sup­port party nom­inee, Barack Obama. If the party over­came the racially-charged protests of white female Clinton sup­porters, it will over­come the policy and ser­vice record ‑charged protests of Sanders sup­porters. Those same sup­porters, the data would sug­gest, are at least smart enough to dis­tin­guish between voting and holding politi­cians and par­ties account­able, despite the apparent inability of anyone writing from the main­stream media to grasp that sub­tlety.

My con­cern isn’t for Sanders sup­porters backing the nom­inee, how­ever, since they make up such a small and com­par­a­tively incon­se­quen­tial por­tion of the elec­torate. Post-DNC my con­cerns rest with unpacking the pre­vailing nar­ra­tive and offering an alter­na­tive, without which, we really do risk losing the elec­tion. That loss will have zip to do with the minority-erasing mirage of #BernieBros sup­pos­edly poi­soning the well. The New York Times pub­lished an inter­ac­tive info­graphic break­down of elec­toral engage­ment. The pic­ture it paints is stark and demon­strates that what­ever other symp­toms we observe, America’s pri­mary ill­ness is a dearth of democ­racy. We don’t need less — as some lib­erals quip, stu­pidly mind-bog­gled that anyone would vote for T_​_​_​_​, we need more. According to the Times, 9 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion, 14 per cent of eli­gible adults, voted to nom­i­nate T_​_​_​_​and Clinton as the only choices for the highest exec­u­tive office in a country of 324 mil­lion people. Nix 103 mil­lion chil­dren, felons, and non-cit­i­zens. What are we left with? The 88 mil­lion people who don’t vote. The 73 mil­lion people that didn’t vote in the pri­maries, but will vote in the gen­eral elec­tion. Addi­tion­ally, the 60 mil­lion people who voted in the pri­maries, 30 mil­lion for each party. A paltry 5 per­cent of the eli­gible voting public chose Clinton, and 4 per cent elected T_​_​_​_​.

Not only are the nom­i­nees unrep­re­sen­ta­tive of the par­ties that nom­i­nated them (28 per cent of eli­gible voters each iden­tify as par­tisan Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans), but they are hugely unrep­re­sen­ta­tive of the 42 per cent of Amer­i­cans who iden­tify as non-par­tisan inde­pen­dents regard­less of actual party affil­i­a­tion. In terms of leaning, inde­pen­dents are split nearly equally, giving Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans a total pos­sible voting bloc of 43 per­cent of the eli­gible voters, each. Obvi­ously there will be bleeding at the bound­aries. Cer­tainly there will be third party voters on the fringes. Our con­cern, how­ever, should be with the unprece­dented unfa­vor­a­bility of BOTH can­di­dates and the very small pocket of active sup­port they have com­pared to the pop­u­la­tion at large.

But, but, but, if you don’t vote, you don’t have a say!? Get over it! What a pre­ten­tious, insen­si­tive, and miserly thing to say. TRULY. Get over your­self, kindly, and extract your head from your nox­ious apho­rism-expel­lant anal cavity, your brain appears to be suf­fo­cating. When we’re talking about more than 160 mil­lion of our fellow cit­i­zens, protes­ta­tions of lazi­ness, apathy, and spurned respon­si­bility is a non-expla­na­tion that jives with little else we know about our nation and its people. Sloth­ful­ness is not an expla­na­tion. Care­less­ness is not an expla­na­tion. Undu­ti­ful­ness is not an expla­na­tion. They are also piss poor excuses to lord your­self over the elec­torally dis­il­lu­sioned.

Be glad you are deluded enough to make some mod­icum of effort at democ­racy. Be happy in your fools’ hope. Too many across this nation haven’t the advan­tage of delu­sional self-aggran­dize­ment. I have voted straight-ballot Demo­crat since I was eli­gible to vote in every elec­tion. Do you know what that makes me? A fool. And I’ll do it yet again in November. Because I’m a fool. Due to an unholy con­flu­ence of Repub­lican ger­ry­man­dered redmap­ping — which redis­tricted the elec­toral map in favor of Repub­lican majori­ties during the last census — and the utter failure of Democ­rats to develop an on-the-ground, grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion and a proac­tive fifty state strategy, we’re roy­ally f — ked. We didn’t get a “shel­lacking” as Obama said of the midterms, we got e‑fâ — kin’-viserated. We have not risen to the chal­lenge and done any­thing to mean­ing­fully change course. So, fortress lib­er­alism is it. Let’s make sure we don’t lose our only holdout, that bas­tion of motion­less­ness, 1600 Penn­syl­vania Avenue. From there we can at least keep gov­ern­ment at a stand­still, pre­vent Repub­lican retrench­ments of social pro­grams, and fur­ther a pro-cor­po­rate agenda spun flat­ter­ingly as faithful resis­tance and incre­mental progress.

The truth is that the dis­en­chant­ment of voters is rooted in reality, the lived expe­ri­ences of a people rav­aged by an aloof and uncon­cerned élite — an intractable alliance of New York money, Wash­ington power, and Ivy League pro­fes­sionals — for whom the voices of the ple­beians are useful instru­ments to self-serving ends. When Princeton University’s Gilens & Page found that,

The pref­er­ences of the average Amer­ican [90 per cent] appear to have only a minis­cule, near-zero, sta­tis­ti­cally non-sig­nif­i­cant impact upon public policy

…they were merely echoing the more than forty-years of accu­mu­lated gut-feel­ings: You’re vote doesn’t matter, what­ever the numer­ical totals. Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans will both fur­ther the poli­cies that monied inter­ests pay for not what con­stituents vote for. And so it is, ours is an elec­toral malaise, wrought in jus­ti­fi­able despair at the ero­sion of sov­er­eignty, the unrep­re­sen­ta­tive­ness of ours rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the ever widening chasm of inequitable wealth dis­tri­b­u­tion rubber-stamped by a gov­ern­ment of the cor­po­ra­tions, by the cor­po­ra­tions, for the cor­po­ra­tions. People don’t stay away from the ballot box because they don’t care, they stay away because the system is cor­rup­tion-rid­dled, deeply unde­mo­c­ratic, and their votes have “near-zero” impact. They are the ener­vate masses, worn down by do-noth­ing­ness who­ever holds the leg­is­la­tures. The pop­u­larity of T_​_​_​_​, rooted in this angst, is an anom­alous excep­tion to this nar­ra­tive, POSSIBLY threat­ening the Republic’s very exis­tence. Unfor­tu­nately, we are so attuned to the use­less­ness of our vote that non-voters may all too easily con­flate the risk T_​_​_​_​poses with the do-nothing estab­lish­ment that inces­tu­ously spawns its own per­pet­u­a­tion in spite of us.

It will come as no sur­prise, I hope, that Clinton — who rep­re­sents this world­view of sequestered back­room élite power bro­kerage — only finds appeal in that well-to-do, col­lege-edu­cated, gain­fully-employed, self-seg­re­gated fifth of the pop­u­la­tion least impacted by the eco­nomic des­per­a­tion and polit­ical alien­ation afflicting most Amer­i­cans.

Democ­rats need to stop saying things are “great.” They’re not. They need to stop using the GDP and employ­ment stats as QUALITATIVE mea­sures of public wel­fare. They need to stop cap­i­tal­izing on the hopeful opti­mism of Amer­i­cans, despite their working knowl­edge that things are not all that well at home. They need to try, des­per­ately try to earn back the hon­or­able title, “Party of the People,” because they’re not and they haven’t been for quite some time.

I could go on and on about other polit­ical mind-mum­blings including, but not lim­ited to: I. How frus­trating it is when the stakes are so damn high that Clinton lied right out the con­ven­tion door about FBI Director Comey’s tes­ti­mony regarding her email server; II. The mis­er­able extent to which the 2016 DNC received more pri­vate cor­po­rate spon­sor­ship this year in Philadel­phia than ever before; III. How T_​_​_​_​is not a fas­cist and we need to be careful about using these words so heavy with the tragedies of his­tory; IV. How crit­i­cizing T____’s man­ner­isms and speech are unhelpful, self-impor­tant therapy for people who can’t focus their myopic vision on what’s really going on; V. How Democ­rats self-impor­tantly screech on and on against T____’s gross indig­nity toward Khizr and Ghazala Khan and yet Democ­rats are iron­i­cally impli­cated in con­tin­uing a dubious for­eign policy that has resulted in the deaths of innu­mer­able Muslim civil­ians, not to men­tion, they just nom­i­nated its life­long warhawk cham­pion; VI. Or, how Democ­rats are “proud” when they stage a hokey bit of polit­ical the­ater — an activist-appro­pri­ated sit-in, for instance — in con­gress and in their press state­ments to protest Repub­lican obstruc­tionism on gun con­trol, but the Obama admin­is­tra­tion has been the most pro­lific arms sup­plier on record.

I could go on, but I mustn’t. Until again, adieu.

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